Lee Krasner, The Sun Woman II, 1958, 70 x 114 inches

I thought I’d begin my first official post with a confession.

I love abstract expressionist work. There’s very little of it that doesn’t give me enormous satisfaction.

Why do I love it?


Jane Frank, Crags and Crevices, 1961, 70 x 50 inches

It’s big. You can walk into the art. Your eyes, no matter how twitchy, can’t get around it. You are willy-nilly there, distractions out of sight, falling into someone else’s space.

It uses up all the canvas. You don’t have to decide what’s the most important element to look at. You don’t have to worry through finding the one place where the artist wants you to stare. You can start anywhere and get anywhere.


Grace Hartigan, The Massacre, 1952, oil on canvas, 81 x 130 inches

Abstract Expressionism focuses on the same things I love about art materials –the way the paint stains and piles, the texture of the support, the spilling and plopping and slooshing and combining of oil and pigment.

I love the color. Sometimes color is all that there is, perhaps a single hue, and because of the simplicity, I have to look and look and look again. I have to find the subtle changes, the minute brush hairs, the texture of the underpinnings.
I love it that it’s so physical and arm waving with whole body movement, ladder climbing, and studio visits by curators and dealers, necessitated by the sheer size of the canvases. Those artists made the curators and dealers come to them.

I love it that whatever meaning is placed upon it by the artist and/or others is often beside the point. I love it because while much of it purports to have schemes and notions, not many of those notions can be sketched out ahead of time. What arises, arises from the work and the materials themselves.


Helen Frankenthaler, Coral Wedge,1972, acrylic on canvas, 81 1/2 x 46 1/2 inches,

I love it that there are lots and lots of women doing art as good as the men, not perhaps getting the same kind of cultural adoration, and, I suspect, rolling their eyes over the hyper-masculine antics of their colleagues. But there they are, holding their own.

Wikipedia has a decent run-down of the movement, which basically ran from post-WWII through 1960 and involved all the old guys we know about — Jackson Pollock, Mark Rothko, Willem de Kooning. It also involved the same number of women, some of whom we might know of — Helen Frankenthaler, Louise Bourgeois, Joan Mitchell — but many of whom are still to be revealed in their fullest glory. Oh joy, all that art for me to discover and absorb.


Joan Mitchell Cypress, 1980,
oil on canvas 260 x 360 inches

I think I agree with John Haber, the Village Voice critic, that Ab Ex art is sublime, whether Kantian or Burkeian in its nature (although I’ll put my money on Burke). It isn’t the last sublime art produced, but it may be, on the whole, the biggest boldest brightest most moving sublimity that I’m acquainted with.

The art we love (as perhaps different from admire or emulate) is a matter first and foremost a personal emotion. I love abstract expressionism because my father, a welder and visually illiterate man, is an exemplar for me of the openness and breadth of the Ab Ex art. I love abstract expressionism because the territory I grew up in had its wide open visuals, fields bordered by black rivers, views across blued hills, textures coated by mud or foliage. I love it because it refuses my own ego, takes me out of myself, makes me a giant eyeball. I love it because it isn’t about something I can name.

Which brings me to the requisite Art and Perception conclusion — the question. What piece of art, artist, or art movement brings you joy at this moment or on a recurring basis?